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Hacker disrupts economy of annoying Twitter-based game

Spymaster gets Twoted

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An annoying Twitter-based game has been exploited through a Robin Hood-style attack involving the transfer of imaginary funds.

Spymaster is the micro-blogging equivalent of the Zombies application popular on Facebook a year or so ago. Would-be Jason Bournes who sign onto the programme get points for recruiting users to their "spy ring" and completing missions involving the "assassination" of other players or establishing a "safe house", for example.

All this generates micro-blogging posts that some reckon is filling Twitter with useless junk (as if the micro-blogging service didn't have enough of this anyway).

Spymaster user @partridge designed a piece of code to set up an in-game Swiss bank account and transfer funds. The code unearthed a flaw in the game's software that meant he was able to duplicate his balance almost at will, at one point allowing him to amass £75.39 trillion in just 15 minutes.

@partridge used this new-found mega wealth to launch a Robin Hood-style wealth redistribution spree. This had the effect, of course, of making a nonsense of the in-game economy within Spymaster.

The game creators stepped in to restore order by resetting player accounts and wiping bank balances, as well as temporarily disabling some features.

Game creators have had to reset many player accounts and zero their bank balances and temporarily disable some game features. These actions had the effect of frustrating some players (who found themselves frozen out after innocently benefiting from "fraudulent transfers") into giving up on the game, Trend Micro security analyst Rik Ferguson reports.

Ferguson's write-up of the hack, which uncovered flaws in poorly-written code, can be found here. Software developers iList built Spymaster as a side project but takes the whole thing pretty seriously, as you can see from its reaction to the hack here

Prior to the attack some people were offering to sell in-game money to other players, Ferguson adds. Whether anybody took up this offer remains unclear. One real dollar bought 10 spymaster dollars, according to one ad. (The exchange rate to Linden dollars is sadly unrecorded.)

More money meant more abilities in the game but even so the gameplay was restricted to interactive texts or, to unwitting onlookers, spammy updates. ®

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